By Susan Browne © Susan Browne 2018/2019
Clara has moved to a Greek Island and lives alone. She would love to get her ex back, but she never imagined he would fall into the trap so easily.
Well, what would you do?
I find him at the side of a dirt road, dehydrated in the blistering sun, on my island. My beautiful gem in the dancing Aegean Sea, with white buildings, dotted like cakes.
Fritz left me seven years ago. I never got over him. And now here he is. Like an apparition.
He said I was much too career-driven to have time for a relationship. I was running my own business. What choice did I have? They say it gets easier, and when it became too late, it did get easier. Much easier. I get to go to a Greek island and not come back and hire more staff to sort things for as long as needed.
I’ve bought a scooter, so I can nip around and see things off the beaten track. I like being on my own. I honestly don’t have an issue with it. I’m the foreign lady in the house on the hill that is kind to cats of every sort – even raggy, flea-bitten ones. And that speaks Greek badly.
He puts out his hand, and I pull over. He wears a hat and sunglasses, but it’s him.
‘No way,’ I say.
‘Any chance of a lift? I’m out of petrol.’ That accent still does something to me. I do my best to squish it and stamp it out like I would a moth getting ready to eat my clothes. Keep it together, Clara.
‘So it seems. What happened?’
‘My bike is back there somewhere.’
He smells of sun cream, aftershave that I recognise, and, well Fritz. The human body is a miracle. We are just animals at the end of the day.
‘You can laugh if you like. I don’t care. Yes, I am an idiot.’
‘I’m not laughing. Maybe you had a leak in your tank?’
‘Or maybe I didn’t fill up for such a long ride.’
He still tans easily. Ever pretty. A Bavarian Mountain God. Six foot two, flaxen hair and glacial blue eyes. Sultry lips like his mother has just smacked him in the mouth.
The years have only improved him. He climbs on behind me.
‘Let’s keep heading for this beach down here,’ I say. ‘We can get you some water. I’m just out.’ I want to lean back into him, to turn just a little and let my lips brush across his skin, but instead, I accelerate, and the bike lurches forward.
When we get to the beach, there is a small carpark where we dismount. After a few steps, he actually passes out right there on the sand in front of me. His head just misses a great big rock.
I check his pulse and its racing. An elderly man runs up to us, completely naked, and it dawns on me that this is a nudist beach. He straddles Fritz and announces ‘it’s okay, I’m medically trained,’ and begins CPR. I pull him off, and Fritz wakes up to a pair of balls swinging past his face and me shouting at the man.
‘We are okay,’ I say to the pair of balls.
We aren’t really okay, in truth. I should ask someone to help us to stand, to get water, but I just can’t bring myself to ask naked people. There’s just something about them. I’m going to manage him myself. Past all of these bodies, we walk arms around one another for support, across to the Red Snapper Taverna.
‘Water, please. Neró parakaló.’ I help him to sit in the shade. Fritz is shivering. ‘Easy,’ I say. ‘Drink it slowly.’
‘I want to eat something. Anything,’ he tells me.
‘I have the perfect thing in my bag. Close your eyes and open your mouth,’ I find myself saying. I take out a meatball that I have had wrapped in napkins, last nights leftovers brought along for snacking on the go. It’s still good. He opens his mouth and bites into it.
‘Oh my God,’ he says. He always loved my meatballs. He licks his fingers and looks at me, and I feel self-conscious. ‘I’m better now. Cured.’
I suppress the smile. ‘So, what are you doing here?’
‘I came to see you. I heard the news.’
I flush. ‘Oh that. Nice of you. Are you with anyone?’
‘No. I was, but it’s over.’
‘You came all the way out here to see me? Because you heard I was terminal?’
‘Yes. You look great though.’ He pauses. ‘How are you?’
I take a big drink of water. ‘Fine, actually.’
‘Fine? Nobody knew where you were staying, you’re hard to find. I’ve been here for days.’
I shrug and smile.
‘And I heard you are still making these amazing meatballs.’
I punch his arm and we both laugh.
‘I have missed you.’
‘Come on. You’re certifiable.’
‘You always said that.’
‘I was always right.’
‘So, if I am, you want to run into the sea naked with me? Since we are here on a nudist beach anyway?’
‘No, I bloody well don’t,’ I say.
Ever quick, he pulls off my top faster than I can react and runs into the sea, stripping as he goes. From there he throws his shorts out onto the shore. With just my bra and skirt on, I pay for the water and walk down to the water’s edge, cautiously undressing as I go. The waiter in The Red Snapper is used to it I expect. Here goes.
Truth is, I got the all clear months ago. I could have gone and told them all and got back to work. But it’s just too good here. So I kept it under my hat. Here, I write. I swim. I cook. I explore. The business ticks over itself and I get paid. Just a few emails and the odd call. They leave me alone. I hoped beyond hope that he might want to see me. That a part of him still loved me somehow. Still cared. I have a friend back in London that knows him. I was just about to tell her the good news then she mentioned she would be meeting him. So I thought I’d leave things the way they were. I know its lousy. I can always tell her now. I didn’t think in a million years he would actually come, but here he is. Bare as the day he was born in the sparkling surf. I could always say I only just got the news now. In my inbox today. Who’d know?